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Thank you Julian for another wonderful presentation.

Updated: Jun 26

The First Marlin Game Fishing Documentary Screens at The Bermagui Country Club
Club President Scott Gowland with Dr. Julian Pepperell holding the Don Sargood Trophy

Back in late November, at our 2023 Annual Club Dinner, we were again treated to the wisdom and knowledge of one of Australia's best known Marine Biologists and authors Dr. Julian Pepperell.

At past dinner occasions Julian had held everyone captive and us professing well into the late hours about game fishing based research and programs. This time around he did it again with a presenation focused on the mighty Southern Bluefin Tuna. He presented an in depth talk on the 'Boom to Bust to Barrels' nature of the this pelagic species, using data analysis on trying to piece together and advise us how these tuna where almost wiped off the map but have now now returned in jumbo sized models. Yet it was this early quip about our dear Club that got us all feeling like he was possibly a member of our beloved STC.

"Yes, the STC is just another fishing club, however it just doesn't smell like one."

It paved the way to a timely and interesting journey through the life of the SBT, based on how Victorian Gamefishers have been having such wonderful success catching this species in the past 15 years, and at record sizes. Julian presented a lot of moving parts as to why the SBT had made such a recovery and resurgence in numbers, but typically, landing on one fact as to why was hard to resolve. Reproduction, over fishing, distribution, research, false declarations and maturity all offered rationales, as well as the introduction of catch quotas in the mid 1980s. The last maybe being the most contributing factor, along with new conservation efforts.

Female SBTs reach sexual maturity at 11 to 12 years of age, enabling them to spawn. At this age they weigh around 80kgs. In the right conditions each fish lays tens of millions of eggs when spawning. Jump forward a dozen years from the low point in biomass (around the mid 1980s) and you can deduce that by the late 1990s these mid 1980s fish were now ready to spawn. Move ahead another dozen years and you've arrived at the time when these fish began to be caught in more consistent numbers and at record sizes. 30 or so years of management had enabled a recovery to occur. Not to anywhere near the biomass it was in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, but enough to notice that the larger fish were now in the system and supporting the population. Today it's recorded that 23% of the biomass spawn yearly and this figure continues to rise. It got too as low as low as 9%.

Julian also noted how the tagging program had a big say on working out how this fishery and the fish in it moved, reproduced and grew. It was a fascinating presentation that lifted the lid on why this particular fish stock fell so sharply, yet rose again with good management.

Recreational catch of SBTs was estimated at 270 tonne in 2018-19 (18,000 fish).

As for why the barrels are now being caught in such solid numbers and how tightly held Australian records have fallen across many line classes tens of times in the past decade, still remains a mystery to Julian. Most larger fish travel well behind the recreational anglers limits, based on commerical longlining data, but more recently have ventured closer to shore. Could it be global warming he cheekily cracked?

Regardless, those in attendance thoroughly enjoyed what Julian presented and his appreciation for the opportuntity to be amongst a group of anglers who hold deep roots in the game fishing fraternity (and dressed so well). No doubt we'll look to get Julian back in the near future to thrill and educate us again.

Julian also extended his genorosity by gifting books to the evenings raffle.

Kel Taylor was one of the lucky winners, taking home a signed copy of Julian's 'Fishing for the Past. Casting nets and lines into Australia’s early colonial history.'

STC Annual Dinners have long been highly regarded for their caliber of guest speaker. For 2024 we can confirm owner operator of Dream Catcher 2 Sportfishing Adventures, skipper Richard Abela, will be joing us to share in his secrets about fishing for and catching the mighty Broadbill Swordfish. This years annual dinner has been set for Friday November 22nd at The Australian Club.

About Julian

"Dr. Pepperel is an Australian marine biologist and author, and a leading authority on marlin, sailfish, tuna, and sharks. Throughout his distinguished career in marine science, he has undertaken numerous projects on the general biology, life history, movements and stock structure of pelagic fishes, including tunas, billfish and sharks.

The majority of his work has been conducted in collaboration with the Australian government, universities and state fisheries departments as well as with other universities around the globe. He developed the Australian Game Fish Tagging Program, which at the time was the largest such project in the world. Perhaps one of his greatest accomplishments was developing a code of practice for recreational fishing in Australia in 2007.

Dr. Pepperell has been the keynote speaker at numerous important recreational and commercial fishery conferences and symposia over many decades and has acted in a leadership or advisory role in nearly every major workshop, symposium or conference on highly migratory species at a national and international level since 1992.

Dr. Pepperell received the IGFA Conservation Award in 1999 and is also the recipient of the Rybovich Lifetime Conservation Award from The Billfish Foundation. He is also a member of the Cairns Game Fishing Hall of Fame."


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